ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

SpaceX Announces Satellite Internet Venture.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek  (1/16, Vance) reported that on Friday, Elon Musk was hosting an event in Seattle to launch a new satellite Internet venture. According to the article, it will be a “hugely ambitious” project involving “hundreds of satellites.” The article noted that earlier this week, OneWeb’s Greg Wyler announced a similar venture being funded by Qualcomm and the Virgin Group. Musk said that his project, which will take at least five years or more to complete, can compete with Wyler’s because his project has a distinct architecture that’s “an order of magnitude more sophisticated.” However, Virgin’s Richard Branson said that Musk cannot compete because he does not own the spectrum rights the satellite will use yet, unlike OneWeb. GeekWire  (1/19, Bishop) has a full transcript of Musk’s talk in Seattle.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/19, Winkler, Rusli, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) notes that according to sources first cited by The Information  (1/19, Peers), Google could invest $1 billion in SpaceX’s Internet project. According to the article, Musk usually avoids outside investment deals like this one because he has not wanted to turn over control to another company.

The Los Angeles Times  (1/16, Petersen) noted that satellite industry consultant Roger Rusch said that any satellite venture like Musk’s is “highly unlikely” to succeed.

Space News  (1/19, de Selding, Subscription Publication) notes that there are still unknown details about SpaceX’s unnamed project, including what Musk may have submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which regulates radio spectrum and satellite slots. Meanwhile, the article notes that Musk said he does not plan to make SpaceX a publicly traded company “for quite a long time.”

Video Shows Rocket Landing Attempt That Went “Spectacularly Wrong.” NBC Nightly News (1/16, story 7, 0:15, Williams) continued coverage of the video SpaceX released of its attempt to land a rocket on a barge. According to the broadcast, that attempt “went spectacularly wrong.”

ABC World News (1/16, story 13, 0:15, Muir), CBS Evening News (1/16, story 13, 0:20, Rose), WTTG-TV Washington (1/17, 10:14 p.m. EST), and 800 TV broadcasts also continued coverage of the new images.

Higher Education

Judge Rules CCSF Accreditor Violated Law In Revoking Accreditation.

The Los Angeles Times  (1/16, Romney) reports that California Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow “tentatively ruled” on Friday that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges “violated the law in ways that denied the 80,000-student school a fair hearing” when it moved to revoke the accreditation of City College of San Francisco. Karnow “directed the San Francisco city attorney’s office — which brought the lawsuit — to propose language for an injunction that grants the college ‘the due process to which it was entitled,’” but “denied the city’s request for a do-over — an injunction that would have reversed the commission’s denial of accreditation and ordered the assessment to begin anew.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (1/20) reports that the ruling amounts to giving CCSF a “new opportunity to argue against being closed,” explaining that Karnow said in his ruling that “he planned to issue an injunction requiring the accreditor to revisit its decision after first giving the college a chance to respond to its allegations.” This article characterizes the ruling as “the latest twist in a long-running battle to keep the college open in the face of the accreditor’s charges that it is poorly governed and in a perilous financial position.” The piece notes that ED has criticized the move to revoke accreditation. Reuters  (1/16, Levine) also covers this story.

Study: Forty-Percent Of College Grads Not Prepared For Work Force.

The Wall Street Journal  (1/17, Belkin, Subscription Publication) reports that a test administered by the Council For Aid to Education found that 40 percent of US college students graduates leave college without the reasoning skills they need to manage white-collar work, noting that many of the students lacked the critical thinking abilities and analytical reasoning necessary for such work.

From ASEE
December ASEE Prism Online
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Research and Development

Researchers Increasingly Turning To Crowdfunding To Finance Projects.

The Washington Post  (1/18, Cha) profiles Baylor College of Medicine neuroscience professor David Eagleman, who has launched a Kickstarter page “showing off a prototype of a high-tech vest that he thinks will help us expand human perception beyond the limits of our five senses.” Eagleman “is part of an emerging generation of scientists who are leveraging the world of crowdfunding, social media and TED talks to promote and raise money for research that might otherwise never see the light of day.”

FSU Unveils World’s Most Powerful Electrical Testing System.

The International Business Times (UK)  (1/20) reports that researchers at Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems have unveiled “a new 24,000-volt direct current power test system, the most powerful of its kind.” The piece explains that the technology “has the ability to test electrical equipment in real-world conditions” and “will help in building next-generation power equipment.”

MRO Provides “Vindication” By Finding Beagle 2 Lander.

NBC Nightly News (1/16, story 8, 0:25, Williams) continued coverage of how a “NASA orbiter” at Mars found what is thought to be Europe’s Beagle 2 lander’s “final resting place” after over a decade of uncertainty.

The CBS Evening News (1/16, story 12, 0:20, Rose) broadcast that it appears a “blocked” antenna prevented it from radioing back to Earth. ABC World News (1/16, story 12, 0:15, Muir) had a similar report in its broadcast.

The AP  (1/17) reported that the discovery by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is “vindication of sorts” for those holding out hope of learning what happened to the lander. The article noted that the MRO has periodically searched for other missing spacecraft including the Mars Polar Lander, which has yet to be found.

The Los Angeles Times  (1/16, Khan) noted that Alfred McEwen, lead scientist for the MRO’s HiRISE camera, said that he thought that because the Beagle 2 was discovered to be intact near where it was supposed to land, operators should have discovered it sooner.

Mars Missions Said To Hold Lessons For Future Developments. In an article for the Space Review  (1/19), Dwayne A. Day, an investigator on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, wrote that the history of the Beagle 2 project and the following inquiry into its disappearance serve as important lessons for future developments. Similar lessons can be learned from the Curiosity mission. While a scientific success, Day believes there are managerial lessons that should be studied in engineering schools to prevent another mission from running so far over budget and behind schedule. Day also noted that it is a “mistake” to claim that smaller, inexpensive missions like Beagle 2 and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission are “somehow equivalent to the far more sophisticated, ambitious, and scientifically valuable spacecraft that NASA has sent to Mars.” Day believes that in the end, “what the mission accomplishes for the money spent” is more important than overall cost.

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Engineering and Public Policy

Robinson: Obama Needs To Focus On EPA Emissions Regulations.

Eugene Robinson, in his column for the Washington Post  (1/20), says President Obama “can, should and must make climate change one of the major themes of his remaining time in office,” and, according to Robinson, his “biggest impact will come not from whatever happens with the Keystone XL pipeline but from the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking on carbon emissions from power plants.” Robinson’s Washington Post  (1/20) colleague Catherine Rampell denounces those Republicans who have challenged the academic consensus on climate change and offer “near-obsessive condemnations” of the EPA.

Columbia Professors Propose Carbon Offset Market For Forests.

In an op-ed for the New York Times  (1/20, Subscription Publication), Don Melnick, Mary Pearl, and James Warfield, all of Columbia University, write that over the last 40 years, “more than one billion acres of tropical forests have vanished” and the “rate of cutting, burning and clearing shows no signs of abating.” They argue that a carbon offset market needs to be set up for preserving them. They add that “saving a tropical forest of, say, a million acres would prevent roughly 367 million tons of carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere, where some of it would remain for thousands of years.”

Moniz Wants More Accountability In Energy Projects.

In an interview with Federal News Radio  (1/19), Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that “he is ‘institutionalizing’ risk management in a way the department has never seen before.” He stated, “Clearly we have important missions in energy, science, climate change. We have a very important mission in nuclear security but, frankly, the feeling was, without raising our game in management and performance, our mission accomplishments get compromised.” He announced the “new risk-management initiatives at a National Academy of Public Administration gathering in Washington.” The article noted that “Moniz is raising the profile of the Energy Systems Acquisition Advisory Board, which will keep closer watch on projects as they progress” and will meet quarterly from now on.

API: Federal Methane Emissions Regulations Threaten Domestic Gas Production.

The Hill  (1/19, Cama) reported that “aggressive new rules” put forth by the Obama administration to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production have provoked the ire of the oil and gas industry, which claims the regulations would “threaten the very benefits that it has brought in recent years.” Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, believes “the administration’s logic doesn’t hold up,” noting that further regulations “discourages the industry and adds unnecessary costs” that “will only undermine dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions made possible by an abundant and affordable domestic supply of clean-burning natural gas, while discouraging energy development that is the foundation of the American energy revolution.”

McCarthy Defends Methane Rule From Greens’ Criticism. The Hill  (1/17, Cama) reported EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy “defended her agency’s decision not to seek methane emissions cuts from the country’s more than 1.1 million existing oil and natural gas wells.” The agency, instead, “only plans to enforce new methane emissions rules on wells started after it releases its rule in 2016, leading to criticisms from environmental groups.” According to McCarthy, “voluntary standards the EPA will publish will be significant, and will help it move toward the administration’s goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 percent to 45 percent.”

WPost, NYT Praise Administration’s New Efforts To Reduce Methane Emissions. In an editorial, the Washington Post  (1/18) says while the Obama Administration’s new rules to scale back methane emissions “aren’t perfect,” they “are welcome.” The Administration “is right not to rely entirely on voluntary industry effort,” according to the Post, “and it should not rule out expanding its regulatory reach beyond drilling sites.”

The New York Times  (1/19, Subscription Publication) writes that “though inadequate, the new plan” is “welcome” and a “necessary step.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Researchers Helping Girls Learn Computer Skills Through Dance.

USA Today  (1/19, Ramachandran) reports that Clemson University researchers “are helping young girls learn computational skills through dance.” According to Shaundra Daily, an assistant professor of computing at Clemson, “students get used to scientific concepts by actually moving and playing with their bodies.” Jennifer Chiu, an assistant professor of STEM Education at the University of Virginia, said that both choreography and computing “require rhythm and precision alongside abstraction.”

Georgia Students Participate In Robotics Competition.

The Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post  (1/17, Chris Stephens) reports that elementary and middle school students competed in the Super Regional of the Georgia First Lego League this past weekend. Students “from Gwinnett, Cobb, Forsyth and Carroll Counties competed in the” competition at Creekland Middle School. Students were given “two and a half minutes to perform various tasks, including pushing open a door with an arm attached to the robot” and “putting circular keys on a scale.”

Program Pairs Schools With Scientists.

On its website, WBZ-TV  Boston (1/19, Paula Ebben) reports that a program called “Science From Scientists” pairs up Boston “schools with trained scientists to lead classes several times a month.” The program “is in 27 schools.” Schools using the “program have seen a 10-point jump in 5th grade science MCAS scores,” according to Science from Scientists.

Pasadena USD Begins Incorporating 3D Printers Into Curriculum.

The Southern California Public Radio  (1/19, Mary Plummer) “Pass / Fail” blog reported the Pasadena Unified School District has put “3D printers in each of the district’s 27 schools.” Marshall Fundamental Secondary School “uses the new technology to partner with local businesses in developing new products.” Hundreds “of thousands of the 3D printers already in classrooms” across the US, observers say.

LANL Foundation Program Helps Kids Learn Science.

The Santa Fe New Mexican  (1/18, Nott) reported on the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation’s $10 million, five-year “Northern New Mexico Inquiry Science Education Consortium” program, which is aimed at getting “kids [to] learn science by doing science,” according to Gwendolyn Warniment, LANL Foundation director of professional development and evaluation. The piece described the program and noted that a report from the independent Edvance Research Inc. showed students who participated in the program scored higher in science, reading, math and writing.

Editorial: LANL Foundation Program Gets Results. The Santa Fe New Mexican  (1/19) editorializes, evidence of the Inquiry Science Education Program’s effectiveness is “encouraging, not just because student achievement increased, but because the cost of this initiative is relatively inexpensive — about $200 a year per student.” It also suggests that the program’s success in “showing what works — can be replicated in other districts across the state.”

NNSA Program To Support Cybersecurity Education.

WCIV-TV  Charleston, SC (1/17) reported that eight South Carolina educational institutions, including a K-12 district, have been named members of the Obama Administration’s $25 million Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline Consortium grant program. In a statement, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) said this was a continuation of his collaboration “with the National Nuclear Security Administration to support math and science opportunities.” WCIV-TV noted that the funding will come from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Minority Serving Institutions Partnerships Program, with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories also forming part of the consortium.

Program Introduces Illinois Students To Engineering.

The Chicago Tribune  (1/18) reported on a week-long program called “Discover Engineering” held earlier this month at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Mary Warren, eighth-grade science teacher at the middle school, said, “The idea behind this event was to introduce the diverse fields of engineering to our eighth- grade students prior to high school registration.” The program brought together “professional engineers from eight major corporations” and “representatives from McHenry County College.”

Friday’s Lead Stories

Moniz, Biden Visit Norfolk State University.
NYTimes Backs Obama’s Community College Goals.
MIT Researchers Use Diaper Substance To Improve Microscopy Resolution.
Google Aims To Get Self-Driving Cars On Road In Around Five Years.
Canada Puts Off Summit With Obama, Some Say Because Of Keystone.

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